August 15, 2009: Addressing the Issues and a Robust Mailbag.

Today, I’d like to address the online controversy surrounding SGU’s late season episode Sabotage and, specifically, the concern stemming from the released character breakdown and casting sides as they relate to the character of Eleanor Perry.
Let me begin by saying that it’s understandable why so many people are upset. That said, I can assure you that the material being cited does a poor job of reflecting the character or story developments as they will appear in the episode – as will become readily apparent once Sabotage finally airs.

First, there’s the issue of the character breakdown. Now, last year, we tried to address the problem of these breakdowns finding their way out into public forums. The main issue for us arose from the fact that these externally generated summaries were occasionally inaccurate or implied elements that weren’t actually in the script. An example that comes to mind is the online reaction to the all-female team in Atlantis season 4’s Whispers. When those character breakdowns were released, unfairly or not, the general consensus was that we were looking to cast some stereotypical damsels in distress, hapless and hysterical victims for our dashing heroes to save. After the episode finally aired, while fans may have had issues with other aspects of the episode (which, being fans, they often will), the initial concerns stirred by those character breakdowns turned out to be a non-issue. We took steps to avoid the same thing happening again by generating the character breakdowns internally. In theory, it was a great idea since it would allow us to sign off on them in case they did end up getting out there. In practice however…Well, I’m not sure what happened but suffice it to say we dropped the ball. And the result? I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of a worst case scenario. Still, if nothing else, this incident has served as a wake up call. I can guarantee you that, in the future, any and all material will be vetted before leaving our offices.

 

Second, as Brad and Robert already pointed out in their response, this was an early draft of the script. Negative reactions to some of the cited in-story developments are not at all surprising given that, quite frankly, it happens all the time internally. But how, you may ask, can it be an early draft of the script if it says Final Draft? Well, simply put, just because it says Final don’t mean it’s Final. I direct you to a March of 2008 blog entry I wrote titled, appropriately enough “ THE ULTIMATE EXTREME EXTRA SUPERFANTASTIC BEST LUCKY ULTRA NUMBER ONE FINAL FINAL DRAFT” (http://josephmallozzi.com/2008/03/10/march-10-2008/). I hadn’t even read a draft and provided notes until the beginning of this week. Other players, from the director to the various departments to the network had still to weigh in with their thoughts. From the day it is released to the final shooting version, the script will go through many changes as evidenced by all those lovely multi-colored pages. Again I can assure you that, like the character breakdowns, the audition sides do not accurately reflect the finished script.

Third, I can also assure you that the character of Eleanor Perry will not be portrayed as some sex-starved individual looking to bed down anyone in sight. She’s been in a wheelchair most of her life, not in a hermetically-sealed isolation chamber, so it would stand to reason that her disability would not preclude intimacy. Furthermore, the characters of Eleanor Perry and Nicholas Rush have a pre-established friendship and professional relationship that leads Rush to recommend her for the task of addressing a ship-related issue. This past association, built on understanding and mutual respect, is the seed for any potential affection in this story, not biological drive or missed opportunity.

Fourth, and finally, I’d like to address the issue concerning the character of Camile Wray, the franchise’s first openly gay character. Months ago, while we were gearing up for the start of production, I put forth Wray as one of my favorites. She’s a fish out of water, an administrator on board a space ship, a civilian amongst scientists and military personnel, stalwart, smart, opinionated, but at her core a caring and surprisingly vulnerable individual. One of the season’s highlights so far has been the episode Life in which Wray gets to return to Earth (via the body swap conceit of the communication stones) and be reunited with her wife, Sharon. The scenes are beautifully written and beautifully directed, but it’s the performances of both Ming Na and Reiko Aylesworth that really strike a cord. Their stable, grounded relationship is as much in contrast to the show’s other dysfunctional relationships as it is to Wray’s austere, lonely existence on the ship – making her eventual return that much more poignant. All this to say that we’ve worked hard to present a compelling, believable, multi-layered character – a major player in the shipboard dynamics and intrigue – and we are not about to do anything that will undermine or disrespect her. I’d love to say more, but at the risk of giving away any spoilers…

Yes, we’re aware of the issues and extremely sensitive to all of your concerns. Suffice it to say that once Sabotage has aired, many of those eyeing this episode with certain trepidation will no doubt breathe a sigh of relief – and, here’s hoping, also enjoy the show as well.

Now for a little mailbag:

Pastrygirl writes: “Have you decided on October’s BOTM selection?”

Answer: Not yet. Have any suggestions? Let’s hear ’em.

Majorsal writes: “Can you give a reasonable, yet realistic time table on when you think the movies will be made?”

Answer: As I’ve said before, Paul and I have written and delivered the script. The rest is out of our hands.

Darkcraft writes: “Now that the united states government has branded most animal rights groups as being ‘domestic terrorists’ (because apparently picketing and exposing illegal activities is something terrorists do), there isn’t all that much choice of groups for animal rights supporters.”

Answer: I respectfully disagree. Certain animal rights groups that have been branded domestic terrorists because they have firebombed buildings, destroyed public buildings, and threatened lives. While PETA has done some good, they’ve proven themselves at turns incredibly arrogant, bullheaded, offensive, highly insensitive, and hysterically petty. More often than not, their inability to grasp the sheer idiocy of their actions and PR statements only serves to reinforce the general opinion that they are dipstick extremists completely out of touch with the average person. As you pointed out, this is both sad and incredibly frustrating for many individuals who want to support animal causes but are loathe to send any money to support these yahoos. Instead, might I suggest supporting some of the many animal rescue efforts on a local and national level, several of whom have been cited in the comments of fellow readers, groups that, unlike PETA, are more interested in helping animals than helping themselves.

Rrarr123 writes: “Organizations like Sea Shepherds or Green Peace are very “singular-cause oriented”; PETA goes after EVERYTHING it considers wrong.”

Answer: Yes, and that’s the problem. Once an organization starts sending out press releases criticizing the on-air swatting of a fly, it begs not to be taken seriously.

Herbertsommerfeld writes: “Are you going to go see District 9?”

Answer: If the reviews are good, I’ll certainly pick up the DVD.

Jeff writes: “He also has the opportunity to be a bettter person than he would be had he not committed the deplorable crimes he did. Ever hear of Barry Minkow? Child Financial Wiz/Young Adult Financial Wiz/Adult Born Again Christian?”

Answer: Sure. If I cared to, I’m sure I could come up with a healthy list of individuals who had second (sometimes third and fourth chances) and blew them as well, often hurting innocents in the process. Again, it’s not simply a matter of his involvement in a dog fighting operation but his sadistic treatment of these animals. It was less a bad decision as it was a shocking lack of empathy and borderline psychotic behavior.

Jeff also writes: “I have tried posting a few comments that might be considered critical, although I have tried to do it in a constructive manner. If you need to hide such posting from your fan base to make you feel that much more important than that is your choice.”

Answer: I have no problem posting criticisms so long as they’re not rude in nature or personal attacks. I’d suggest you dust off that last post I failed to approve to see which of those two categories it falls under.

PG15 writes: “ Assuming your 2 scripts for episodes 19 and 20 remain 2 scripts, how will the naming go? Will they be (Name) Part 1 and (Name) Part 2, or 2 completely different names, i.e. Darkness and Light?”

Answer: I would prefer to go with a shared name X I and X II.

Deni writes: “Hey, have we not heard from Trish in a while or am I just not paying attention?”

Answer: Hey, you’re right. Trish? TRIIIIIIISSSH!!!

Major D. Davis writes: “Is Dale Volker a scientist or a medical doctor?”

Answer: Scientist.

Stitch writes: “We are having so much trouble trying to figure out what model Motorola Radio the SGU cast is carrying around. Anyway you could give us a hint if it is a GP328 or what model they are?”

Answer: Remind me to ask Evil Kenny on Monday.

Deni writes: “Hi Joe, how’s Jelly doing?”

Answer: The old gal is doing fine. Her test results came back and her liver enzymes are still elevated, so I’m bringing her in for an ultrasound at the end of the month.

Crayonbaby writes: “Who writes the summary of a character that they are sending to casting?”

Answer: From now on, we do!

Duneknight writes: “Will the Kino webisodes be available to people living outside of the US?”

Answer: According to the studio, eventually, yes.

Multisemi writes: “1. People with disabilities can and do have “intimacy.” They even kiss other people.

2. If someone is “intimate” with my body while I am asleep or otherwise not in conscious control of it and I have not previously given explicit permission for that act, it is rape.”

Answers: 1. Agree. 2. Also agree.

Narelle from Aus writes: “Hope Jelly’s results come back showing her fighting fit. Is she on MetaCam?”

Answer: Hey, Narelle, thanks for the tip. I mentioned it to the vet and she said that while MetaCam wouldn’t have caused the problem, it could certainly exacerbate it. I’m going to scale back her dosage and monitor her pain level.

Deni writes: “Oh, yeah, Joe, have you tried milk thistle for Jelly’s liver?”

Answer: Thanks for the suggestion, Deni. I’ll see what the ultrasound turns up and then look into milk thistle. My wife recommended it for a friend who is a heavy drinker and would complain about liver pains (!). He tried it and then claimed he couldn’t continue taking it because he was lactose intolerant. I told him I was pretty certain there was no actual dairy in milk thistle, but there was no convincing him.

Gilder writes: “ How will Mr. Ferreira be credited? As Luis Ferreira or, see IMDb, Justin Louis?”

Answer: Luis Ferreira.

Michael A. Burstein writes: “Nomi and I have been home for three weeks because we just had baby twin girls, and in the midst of taking care of them we sometimes keep the TV on in the background.”

Answer: Hey, congratulations! Hopefully, both Josephine and Joelle will grow up to be huge Stargate fans, just like mom and dad! All the best to Nomi.

DasNdanger writes: “For some reason, the info on kino should have made me understand what it is better…but it doesn’t. What’s the purpose of it?”

Answer: In addition to allowing the crew to explore inaccessible parts of the ship, it also serves as a MALP to scout out planets. Our characters can also use them as video diaries, allowing the audience a more intimate glimpse into their respective personalities and backgrounds.

Dave writes: “Will SGU in any way tell us something about the ongoings of the Atlantis expedition?”

Answer: Alas, no. Sorry.

Silver_comet writes: “Do you use recording equipment for your thoughts when you’re in situations where you can’t write them down soon?”

Answer: Nope. I just endlessly run and re-run the dialogue in my head until I achieve a rhythm I like.

Gen writes: “Do you ever use music for inspiration? Have your stories or characters ever had unofficial soundtracks?”

Answer: Nope. I find music a distraction.

The Bald Soprano writes: “I’m a college student — a hopeful someday TV writer. And I’m working on a spec pilot these days. […] However, as I’m not writing on assignment I wasn’t sure if I should be writing it in cable-format (without act-breaks) or if I should include the breaks. Any thoughts?”

Answer: To be honest, I think you’d be safe going either way although, if it was me, I would include the act breaks. A spec script is a calling card that demonstrates talent as much as it demonstrates an understanding of proper format and story structure.

O6untouchable writes: “You mentioned in response to DP’s questions that the Kino is not sentient. Why then is it roaming the ship, catching these intimate moments with the crew? Is it some sort of high-tech Ancient security camera / guard dog? Or is it being directed to fly around the ship by someone, to “spy” on people, or somesuch?”

Anwswer: The Kino can either be remote controlled or placed on a roam setting.

Quade1 writes: “Joe did you ever find out how they got the Puddle Jumper into the SGC gate room in Morpheus??”

Answer: It was either one of two ways: either they disassembled it and reassembled it in the gate room, or they got it in the same way they got the gate there – by lowering it in from above.

Anneteldy writes: “By the way, Mr. M, is it pronounced KEY-no or kin-o?”

Answer: KEY-no.

StellaByStargate writes: “perhaps you can confirm or correct something RCC said in an article that was posted on SciFi Wire today…they reported that he said he thought that that the SG-1 movie was set sometime between Continuum and the events of SGU. Would you say that’s accurate?”

Answer: Sounds about right.

Maza writes: “Yet here we are, three years after they were filmed, and there’s still not even any word from you lot about when we might see another one.”

Answer: Clearly, you don’t visit much. I’ve done my best to keep fans updated. Anything I know, you know. Well, maybe not you specifically but the readers of this blog.

Norriski writes: “…my 9 month old Blue Tick/Red Bone Coon-hound was well taken care of by my brother/neighbor. But here is the problem, Chassis is extremely destructive!”

Answer: I’m not a dog expert but, given the pup’s age, chances are she’ll grow out of it. Back when Maximus was a puppy, he used to enjoy gnawing on the moldings and wall corners – much to our horror. He grew out of it. Jelly used to enjoy gnawing on stair corners. I tried to dissuade her by sprinkling a little tabasco on the area but she seemed to enjoy it. Eventually, she grew out of it too.

MaggieMayDay writes: “We had some local ALF dipwads “liberate” minks from a farm. These were not pets, but they were cared for extremely well until they met their destiny. Turned out of their cages? Most of them died from heat and fright right there in front of the farm. Asshats!”

Answer: A similar thing happened here. A farm was raided and all the mink set free. For days afterward, city workers were shoveling mink road kill off the local highway.

June 17, 2009: Dear Casting Directors, Producers, Studio People, and Network Execs – Do Yourself A Favor and Hire These Actors.

Nothing to read here. Move along. Thank you.

This blog entry isn’t for Stargate fans or foodies or dog lovers or anyone who was directed here following an internet search for “vampire prop” (three of you), “big ass xex” (two of you), or “eating champagne truffles when pregnant” (one of you). No, this blog entry is for all those casting directors, producers, studio people, and network execs looking to cast their next big project. How about a few recommendations…

Over the course of my ten years with the Stargate franchise, I’ve had the pleasure to work with numerous talented individuals, many of them guest stars who impressed with their performance, professionalism, and gracious off-camera attitude. And so, today, I’d like to make mention of a few of them here (and I stress “a few of them” because there are certainly more than many I could add to the list. But, for the purposes of today’s entry, let’s go with these ten individuals who a) left a lasting impression and b) I feel are really deserving of more recognition). All are gifted actors who would make a terrific addition to any cast. But be warned! Snap ’em up now because I have a feeling they’ll only be available for so long.

In no particular order…

Michael Welch – Young Jack (Fragile Balance, SG-1 season 7).

Welch, perhaps better known for his role as Luke Girardi in Joan of Arcadia, out-Ricked Rick himself when he took on the role of Young Jack, raising eyebrows by nailing everything from O’Neill’s cadence to his unique mannerisms.

Neil Jackson – Khalek, Wraith (Prototype SG-1 season 9, Vegas Atlantis season 5)

He’s a brilliant actor and works a lot, but given his immense talent he should work even more. He delivered one of Stargate’s most deliciously evil performances as Khalek, the Anubis offspring in SG-1‘s ninth season, then delivered an equally nefarious turn as the poker-playing wraith in Vegas.

Jodelle Ferland – Young Adria, Harmony (Flesh and Blood, SG-1 season 10, Harmony, Atlantis season 4)

Whenever I used to watch Dakota Fanning, I never saw her a “child star“. She was simply a great actress. And I feel much the same way about Jodelle who blew us away as the Young Adria in SG-1’s Flesh and Blood. So much so that when we were looking to cast a precocious young princess, we immediately thought of her and offered her the role – before the script was even finished! She’s incredibly accomplished for someone so young. When she was shooting Harmony, she not only had all of her own lines down pat, but would even prompt her fellow actors when they forget theirs.

Brendan Beiser – Tavius, Weaver (The Tower, Atlantis season 2, Memento Mori, SG-1 season 9).

A couple of wonderfully calculated and controlled performances had me standing up and taking notice. His dinner scene in The Tower was my personal highlight of the episode while his wordless reaction to Teal’c’s whispered suggestion in Memento Mori still makes me chuckle.

Reed Diamond – Bryce Ferguson (Stronghold, SG-1 season 9)

The Homicide: Life on the Street vet delivers big time in his role as Cam Mitchell’s dying buddy in SG-1’s ninth season episode Stronghold. Over the course of the single episode, he brings to life a character so genuine and likable that his end touched even the most stoic of stone-hearted producers. That would be me. Hey, I hear he’s on Dollhouse!

Ryan Robbins – Ladon Radim (Various episodes, Atlantis)

Atlantis had it’s fair share of recurring villains, but none quite had the depth and daring of Genii Ladon Radim. Here was a sometime adversary and occasional ally who both charmed and schemed with equal aplomb and, at the end of the day, always seemed to find a way to come out on top. Ryan’s nuanced performance always kept the audience guessing.

Kari Wuhrer – Nancy (Outcast, Atlantis season 4)

When I think back to Kari’s guest spot on Atlantis, I remember her as much for what a sweetheart she was off-camera as I do her terrific performance as Sheppard’s ex-wife. She was perfect as the captivating, whip-smart Nancy.

Malcolm Scott – Caius (The Ties That Bind, SG-1 season 9)

Malcolm delivers one of my favorite comic performances as the colorful intergalactic swindler Caius in The Ties That Bind. Hilarious.

Mike Dopud – Bounty Hunter, Kiryk (Bounty, SG-1 season 10, Tracker, Atlantis season 5)

Former stuntman Mike Dopud excels where so many others crash and burn, pulling off characters both tough and ultimately sympathetic. It’s a tricky balance but Mike makes it seem effortless.

Reiko Aylesworth – Sharon (Life, Universe season 1)

Alas, I never had the opportunity to meet her but going from Carl’s on-set reports, Reiko is a delight to work with. On the other hand, I did see her dailies and watched her performance in the subsequent cuts of Life and can report, this time firsthand, that she was unbelievably good.

Hey, guess who was back at the Bridge Studios today? That’s right. Martin Gero! And guess who wasn’t? That’s right. Me! I was home waiting for the guys to complete work on the new home security modifications. They’re done with the moat but some of the alligators got loose from the truck. By day’s end, we’d managed to corral most of them. That said, if you’re in the neighborhood and happen to come across an enormous reptile that answers to Monty, please contact this blog.

June 12, 2009: My Four Dads, Cracking Casting, Star Runners, and Mailbag.

 

Kerry and Kerry
Kerry and Kerry

 

Qu'est ce que c'est ce prop?  Good question.
Qu’est ce que c’est ce prop? Good question.
Military presence.
Military presence.
Sharing the spotlight with the delightfully delightful Jennifer Spence.  Rock on!
Sharing the spotlight with the delightfully delightful Jennifer Spence. Rock on!

We were standing in the hallway, making plans for that night’s outing, when I threw a glance to Ashleigh and asked whether she’d be joining us. No, she explained, she was meeting a friend for dinner.

“Hey, maybe you can bring her along,”I suggested.

“Yeah,”she replied as though I’d suggested she should compete in the Olympic decathlon. “Me and my four dads.”

Dads?

“Wait a minute!”Lawren piped up, looking back and forth between me and Carl, then back to Ashleigh. “Who’s the fourth?”

“The other guy,”she replied, motioning back down the hall.

“Uh, you mean Paul?”I asked. The guy you’ve been working with for the past few months?

“Yeah,”she said, all smiles.

“But I’m younger than you!”protested Lawren. “I’m, at best, an older step-brother!”

For his part, Carl seemed to find this hilarious. In all fairness, however, he’s used to fielding gags about his age. I mean seriously. Last time he told someone how old he was, they assumed he was talking in “dog years“. My response, however, was less than amused. I believe it was something along the lines of “Hunh.” as I turned and headed back to my office.

Now I’ve never considered myself as old.  Until now of course.  Generally, I’ve dealt with people as personalities rather than age groups although I realize that that isn’t the norm.  And I usually wouldn’t give the ageistic realities of our society a second thought – except that, now that the subject has been broached, I’m forced to admit that it’s only a matter of time before I’m headed into that twilight territory where “fun” gives way to “charming” and the best one can score is the inoffensively neuteral (sic) “distinguished”.  All at once, the inter-office hilarity becomes somewhat less so because, in the back of your mind, you imagine the person you’re sharing a laugh with heading back home, stepping through their front door, and loudly proclaiming: “You’ll never guess what that adorable old coot said today!”.   Suddenly, you’re the crazy uncle, ole so-and-so whose antics liven up the workplace much to the delight of your fellow employees who can’t quite tell whether you’ve been gifted with a wonderful sense of humor or simply surendered to the eccentricity that, years down the line, will see you leaping through the aisles of your local supermarket wrapped in toilet paper screaming “Squeeze the Charmin!  Squeeze the Charmin!”         

Anyway – the next morning, when I rolled in, I was asked what I’d done the previous night. “After dinner, I stopped by to watch some commercial construction for an hour,”I answered. “Then I got home, had a glass of Metamucil, soaked my feet in Epson salts, and fell asleep in front of the t.v. watching some nature show.” Yep, it’s all downhill from here.

Yesterday, we watched the latest cut of Life. A brilliant episode (written by Carl Binder, directed by Alex Chapple) with some great performances – and here I must make mention of two guest starts in particular: Sarah Smyth, who delivers a wonderfully nuanced performance as the struggling Annie Balic, and Reiko Aylesworth (Hey, eagle-eyed Lost fans!) whose touching turn as Sharon proves alternately uplifting and heart-rending. Great casting.

Speaking of which – actress Jennifer Spence plays the role of Dr. Lisa Park in Stargate Universe, a character who has developed quite nicely since the pilot. Here’s a classic case of a supporting player who, over the course of several episodes, catches the attention of the writer/producers on the basis of an impressive initial performance. Based on that initial performance, the actor is given more to do – and hits it out of the park, which gives rise to more interest and meatier scenes. Jennifer‘s growing role on SG:U is just one example of the many such instances I‘m seeing develop as we make our way past the season one midway mark.

Received an email from writer-producer Rafael Jordan who tells me his latest SciFi original movie, Star Runners, premieres tomorrow night. All you Connor Trinneer fans may want to check out (http://www.youtube.com/user/rafael607).

Mailbag:

Belouchi writes: “I have a quick question regarding the Stargate Universe upcoming series: you mentioned on an earlier blog entry that you were waiting for the opportune time to release to us fans some cool concept arts of the Destiny and other tech related props. Any idea when that time will be, if you can post them that will be great.”

Answer: Alas, still waiting for the okay from the studio with regard to much of the behind-the-scenes pics I’ve taken. I’m hoping things will relax after Comic Con.

Louis writes: “Joe I was just wondering if you have ever read any books by Stephen Baxter?”

Answer: Not yet. I have The Time Ships sitting on my to-read pile.

Nadine writes: “Loved the pic of Lulu today.. Will she actually chase the ball, or does she prefer tug-of-war type games?”

Answer: Oh, she’ll chase it, chew it, then nudge it into some inaccessible spot (ie under the couch) and bark until I rescue it for her. Then she’ll repeat the process.

Nadine also writes: “ I seem to recall reading that the pictures on the sidebar are randomly generated, but have you read them all? I swear I saw a pic of Mary Doria Russell’s “The Sparrow”.

If so, have you read it? Did you enjoy it? Was there ever a BotM discussion for it?”

Answer: It wasn’t a book of the month club selection, but I did read and enjoy it.

Major D. Davis writes: “Almost one year ago, Brad had an interview in which he said the Atlantis movie would be made in the near future(Also, he already knew you guys were doing Universe, so I am assuming he had that in mind during the interview). Almost 10 months later the actors haven’t even been contacted yet. I mean how can this not be considered a delay?”

Answer: Ah, if only it were as simple as simply picking a date and making a movie. Unfortunately, it’s a process complicated by deal aspects I’ve already enumerated in a previous entry (look it up, ed.) in addition to the stark realities of a suffering DVD market (the victim of a perfect storm of circumstances – the evolution of alternate media platforms, the recession, and – my #1 suspect – Blu-ray). In order to set an official date for the commencement of principal photography, the studio – which is taking the lion’s share of the risk by bankrolling the production – must first sort out a number of issues. Still, as I’ve been saying all along, we all want to make this movie (me most of all as, from a purely mercenary standpoint, I’ll be producing it – and not for free), and we now have a first draft script in place.

ZeroPointBatteries writes: “How does the filming of sgu work while Lou is on a supposedly ‘live’ television show at the moment?”

Answer: No differently than when we have to shoot around the commitments of other actors. Happens all the time.

Nicole writes: “ I’ll be driving out to the east coast (Canada) this summer with stops in Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City – a day or two per city. Could you recommend some must try restaurants – and maybe chocolate shops?”

Answer: Sorry, I know nothing about the Ottawa and Quebec City dining scene and, quite frankly, very little about the Montreal dining scene. If you like foie gras, I definitely recommend Au Pied de Cochon (I go for dinner every time I’m in town). As for some Montreal chocolate shops, I’d suggest checking out Les Chocolats de Chloe located, conveniently, practically right across the street from Au Pied de Cochon.